Namco Museum Archives Vol 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: June 18, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Namco Museum Archives Vol 2'

by Cody Medellin on June 30, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Gathering Namco's hits and long-lost treasure, Namco Museum Archives Vol 2 features 10 historic 8-bit home console versions of arcade hits.

Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 was the start of something different for the long line of retro compilations that the publisher started on the original PlayStation. Instead of porting arcade games, this line was dedicated to pushing out the company's efforts on the Famicom and NES to the current generation of platforms. The first volume showed how the company did NES ports of arcade classics, and while that would have been disappointing considering how accessible the arcade versions are now, it was saved by the inclusion of some NES originals and an excellent demake of Pac-Man Championship Edition. Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 changes things up with a more balanced mix of arcade ports and home originals.

With Dig Dug, Pac-Man, and The Tower of Druaga on Volume 1, it makes sense that Galaga, Namco's usual suspect for these compilations, appears in Volume 2. Like the other NES ports, the screen ratio is off compared to the arcade, and some of the sound effects don't match up, but everything else is intact. The port is of rather high quality when you think about the hardware it was ported to at the time, so it's a solid game in the collection.

Battle City is an interesting one, as it may not be well known in North America but is considered to be a quintessential NES game in other regions. It's a more modern take on the Atari classic Combat, as you're trying to blow up opposing tanks in a maze while making sure your base remains intact for as long as possible. The ability to destroy most walls makes the action more dynamic, but the interesting part comes from your ability to create levels of your own to play in. You can't save a bunch of these creations, mind you, but the modern trappings of save states give you the incentive to create up to four levels for you and a friend to fight.

Dig Dug II is another example of the developers wanting to make something very different from the original. The game takes place completely above ground, and while you can still use your air pump to inflate enemies until they pop, you can also drill on fault lines to sink parts of the island. While it wasn't well received when it was originally released, the formula now seems ingenious since you're toying with a risk/reward system where you can kill chunks of the playing field to knock out a few enemies. It also leaves you a little maneuvering room in case the other enemies pile up on you. While it doesn't look too hot compared to the arcade version, this is a title that more modern fans may enjoy.

Dragon Buster II is the compilation's other action-RPG, and players of the first NES version may look at this with an abundance of caution since that game was rather poor. The title takes on the form of a top-down dungeon-crawler, where your main weapon is a bow that can fire ricocheting arrows. Despite the confusing decision to use your Select button to enter new areas, the game is much more engaging due to your improved fighting capabilities, and the journey is more engaging now that your actions make sense.

Galpus takes a similar beat to Pac-Man Championship Edition in that this was never originally developed for the NES. The third game in the Galaxian line of titles, it plays similarly to Galaga in that aliens start swooping in from all sides and form up in neat little rows at the top before occasionally dive-bombing toward you for the kill. The gimmick is that in order to get additional firepower, you don't have to let your ship get captured by the alien tractor beam. Instead, if you shoot down an alien that's already holding a ship, you'll possess a tractor beam of your own to capture the aliens. Once the tractor beam expires, any aliens you've captured will be part of your arsenal, forcing them to shoot at their now-former allies. Like Galaga, the gimmick is neat and becomes a big hook in getting people to come back and replay the title countless times.

Legacy of the Wizard stands as the odd man out because it was developed by the RPG specialists at Nihon Falcom. It is part dungeon-crawler in that you'll descend into a labyrinth to find the treasures to beat the dragon at the end, but the side-scrolling viewpoint makes it reminiscent of The Goonies II or Zelda II. The fact that you have to switch out different characters due to their unique abilities makes it deeper than most RPGs of the time, but one annoyance comes from the fact that in order to switch out characters, you'll need to venture to the surface to get back home or, if you're lucky, warp home but trek back to your last spot. If you can deal with the seemingly unnecessary backtracking, you'll find this to be a rather engaging experience for the time.

Mappy-Land is more of a traditional, fleshed-out sequel. The basic mechanics are the same as before, where you'll use trampolines to go between floors to collect things and avoid cats, but now you have a small leap of your own to catch things slightly above you. Instead of doors, you have pulleys to swing and kick over the cats, and the backdrops per level are more colorful. Compared to the last two titles, Mappy-Land doesn't stray too far from the formula, so fans of the original will like this one.

Mendel Palace is another oddity that is developed by Game Freak, the company responsible for the phenomenon that is Pokémon. After choosing the boss you want to go after, you're plopped down in an arena full of picks-ups and enemies. You have no weapons of your own, but you can flip over the tiles in front of you. The only way to escape a level is to eliminate your enemies, and the only way to do that is to flip over the tiles that they're on until they crash into a wall. The concept is novel, and the game gets interesting once you discover how to eliminate enemies. The journey is long enough that the time investment to complete the campaign feels worthwhile.

Pac-Land is next on the list, and it takes the characters from the classic maze game and places them in a platformer. The title is notable for being one of the earliest side-scrolling platformers, and it is enjoyable for a while. The graphics are nowhere near the arcade version, and you'll have to get used to the control scheme where your face buttons do the actual movement while your d-pad is used for jumps. For many, that unorthodox control scheme might be enough for a pass.

Rolling Thunder brings things back to arcade port territory, but this one is also significant since most NES owners never played this one unless you were lucky enough to have a place that rented out or sold the unlicensed games by Tengen. Though it is a shooting game, it feels more like a mix of Shinobi due to the viewpoint and two levels of action and Elevator Action since you need to enter doors to refill bullets, gain new guns, and hide from enemies. Compared to its contemporaries, the game is slower-paced but still action-packed and the NES conversion is well done.

Finally, Super Xevious is something that even modern fans might not be able to stomach. The high difficulty level would be fine if it weren't caused by the environment trying its best to hide enemies and their shots, leading to enough surprise deaths to make you wonder what happened. There's little sense of progression, since levels tend to loop around themselves often, and everything vital is so opaque that you need a guide to play this one. Combined with a looping, grating soundtrack, and this title is a hard pass.

Like the first volume, there are two slight missteps to the package. The first is the lack of archival content for any of the games. Just about every Namco Museum release has had some type of content in this regard, whether it's ads, old artwork, or pictures of the arcade cabinets, so it's disappointing to see this series get the bare-bones treatment. The second issue comes from the decision to split the compilation into two separate games. On the one hand, this makes sense if the company would release the rest of its NES collection on a third volume soon. On the other hand, with a good chunk of those leftover titles being so Japanese-heavy, unless there's a movement to create translations for those titles like they did for Splatterhouse, it would've have been easier to mash both collections into one for the sake of convenience.

Compared to the first volume, Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 feels like a better package of games all around. While there are still a large number of arcade-to-NES ports here, the genre variety is much broader, and fewer games have made appearances on previous compilations. There are still a few clunkers here, but most of the titles are solid, and while nothing is as sought-after as Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti was, there's still a good collection here. For the retro fans, this is worth checking out for $19.99.

Score: 8.0/10

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